Charles Poliquin on CrossFit: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

When world-renowned strength coach Charles Poliquin states an opinion, people listen. This esteemed coach has created workouts for Olympic medalists in 17 different sports, as well as world record holders in 10 different sports, and professional athletes in the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, and UK Premier League. Poliquin’s knowledge is based on years of study and experience. Listen to what he has to say and learn from it.

In a blog featured on his website, Charles Poliquin has stated that he is “utterly convinced that CrossFit is a great product with a huge potential to improve.” It’s the huge potential for improvement that concerns us. Despite some opinions that CrossFit is perfect, Poliquin’s opinions should be taken with more than a grain of salt. They bare more weight than a 200 pound barbell.

The Good Stuff

Poliquin, often a harsh critic, praises CrossFit for a number of the cornerstone features of the program. He gives kudos to the CrossFit commitment to hard work, and loves the fact that Female CrossFitters also do the tough stuff, and not some girly-girl version of a strength and power exercise. He likes the fact that CrossFit includes some forgotten exercises, as well as some that were unequivocally classified as contraindicated, without realizing that they would be safe and beneficial to some people under some circumstances. Poliquin also gave CrossFit gold stars for the founder’s commitment to proper nutrition. Now for the not so good stuff.

The Bad News

ñ Poor Mechanics and Form: Many Crossfitters use horrific form. Don’t get defensive and deny it. Watch the videos. Listen to the commentaries of Crossfitter physiotherapists, who watched the CrossFit Games, and took issue with the form, alignment and muscle imbalances of some of the competitors.

ñ Lack of Progression for Novices: Poliquin also gives demerits to CrossFit coaches who have novices perform strongman exercise such as Continental cleans with an axle, without giving them the time to develop the strength and skills required for this type of advanced exercise.

ñ Negative Risk/Rewards: In some cases, the chosen CrossFit exercise has a negative risk/reward ratio, meaning that you work very hard, put yourself at the risk of injury, and receive only minimal fitness benefits. Hard work, simply for the promise of nothing more than bragging rights, is never a good thing.

ñ Cavalier Attitude About Injury: Unfortunately, this is part of the CrossFit culture. CrossFit founder Greg Glassman has stated that if someone is afraid of injury, “we don’t want them in our ranks.”

ñ Improper Sequencing of Exercises: Some CrossFit WOD’s have you perform smaller muscle exercises before exercises that target the larger muscles. Conventional wisdom tells us to perform large muscle, compound exercises prior to performing small muscle isolation exercises. There’s a reason for this, and it’s a good one. During a pushup, your triceps assist your pectoral and other larger muscle groups. Your triceps, as you have probably noticed, are not that strong. If you perform triceps dips before pushups, you fatigue an already weak muscle group, thereby impeding proper pushup form.

Who’s Doing It Right

Poliquin praises Crossfit coaches who learn proper Olympic lifting technique from elite, respected weight training coaches. As a result, they exhibit perfect from and give their students a meticulous role model to mimic. Some Crossfit coaches do not take a cavalier attitude about injuries, and take a proactive approach by including remedial and injury prevention exercises in their program, even if those exercises are not sanctioned by CrossFit.

While you might not be able to afford an elite weight lifting coach, one of our physiotherapists can help you maximize your CrossFit training.